Brush your hair, please. You look like a mess. When was the last time you ate? You say you’re tired but you’ve been in bed for three consecutive days. The sun is shining, the fresh air will make you feel better. Just smile. Get yourself together. Why is it so hard?
This is my internal monologue when a depressive episode hits. I’m aware that laying in bed all day and not brushing my hair isn’t good for me, I know this, but depression has more control sometimes. I can see myself in the mirror. I know I look terrible. I can see the dark circles under my eyes from being so exhausted, and I know the only thing I’ve “eaten” in three days is water from a dusty cup on my night stand. It has become so routine, inconvenient, and just downright annoying that when it hits I’ll get mad at myself and say “I get it, you’re depressed. Can’t we just skip this part?”
But, I am not depressed.
Saying that I am something that I cannot control would be lying. I feel like saying that I am depressed would imply that I am in a constant state of being miserable and not knowing why. I’m not like that, though. Most of the time, I’m a very happy person. I like to laugh, tell jokes, make other people smile, and anything else that sounds cheesy. I just happen to lack the ability to inhibit enough serotonin to keep me like that 365 days out of the year.
Don’t get me wrong, depression is very serious. An episode that lasts for a week can take 3 weeks to recover. It takes so much out of a person. You could be laying in bed for a week straight and still be exhausted. It can make you feel like you don’t deserve the good things that you do have, because even when those things are good, you’re too numb to enjoy them. Depression makes you feel lazy. You know you need to go outside and get the mail, run that errand, do your homework, or feed yourself, but your body has no desire to move. You are frozen and everything feels like it’s flying past you, but you can’t catch up. So what’s the point of trying? Every single person you see could tell you how great you are, but the depression won’t let you believe it. And you know what the worst part about this is? It’s nobody’s fault. It isn’t the guy who didn’t text you back, your mom, your dead-beat dad, the pile of homework you never finished, and it’s not you either. You can’t point any fingers and it drives you crazy because you can’t cut it out.
I think the worst part, for me, is that I feel the need to apologize for it. I can tell that my friends are worried about me. I can tell it stresses my roommate out when I cry in my bed for three days. So I apologize. I can tell that when I am quiet and distant my friends think I don’t like them, and I feel terrible. I feel the need to apologize because I know how it effects other people, and not just me.
But, still. I am not depressed. I am simply a person that struggles with depression. When I was first diagnosed, it was weird. I knew I’d been feeling like absolute crap for the past 5 years, but depression? Doesn’t that seem a little excessive? Can’t I just go fly a kite or pet a dog and be fine? It offends me to this day that my brain has the guts to think it can control my emotions like that.
I began to feel like I was less of a person after I was diagnosed. I felt like I had this label on my forehead that said “handle with care” or “fragile” or “hey I’m depressed and might start crying for no tangible reason at all”. I felt like I was broken, and that not only me, but everyone who knew me would no longer see me as the person I was. For a while, I would think about how it might’ve been easier to keep pretending like the depression wasn’t there. How if I didn’t go to the doctor, I could pretend I was a complete and stable human being. After a while, I got used to it. It was like solving a mystery, every time I suffered an episode or had to cope with my anxiety, I knew what was happening and why. I finally had an answer, and it took me a while but I eventually realized that being diagnosed was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I don’t tell people right away that I struggle with this. It usually isn’t the best first date ice-breaker. I can always tell when I am comfortable enough with someone to trust them with this information about myself. Over the years it has gotten easier to talk about. I don’t talk about it for attention, nor am I writing about it to get you to feel bad for me. If you feel bad for me at this point in your reading, stop it. Seriously, chill out. I talk about it because it is something I know people need to hear.
I am not depressed.
I am not a broken person. I am not fragile, and I do not need to be seen in a different light. I have depression, and like so many people in this world who have it, I go on. Thanks to generic zoloft and some groovy coping mechanisms, I am a better version of myself than I could ever dream of being. When I was 16 and hating myself because I thought I wasn’t good enough, I never would have thought that I would grow up to be this. I am my own person who might have some bad days and that is okay. I know it’s okay because I have depression, and I cannot control it and no matter how hard I try those bad days still come.
It took me a long time to realize that I was a real person. Not in the twilight zone kinda way, but in a I-am-actually-worthy-of-feeling-like-a-validated-member-of-society kinda way, you know? It didn’t happen over night. I didn’t have some eat-pray-love experience that changed my perspective on life. It was definitely not as glamorous as Julia Roberts makes it look. It was ugly. It was crying in the library bathroom because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’ll never make it past my first year of college. It was falling asleep next to the toilet bowl because the different medications I had to test made me sick and kept me up all night. It was calling someone I loved when I was going through hell and him telling me I used my depression as an excuse. It was realizing that I didn’t have to hang on to people that hurt me just because I loved them. It was losing friends. It was losing myself for a little while. But I got myself back.
It was only until recently that I found myself again. Ugh, I hate that. “Find myself.” I sound like I just got back from backpacking in Europe with a guy named Chad. But, for a while there, I was gone. I felt empty and unreal and lost. I became angry and cynical, and could only find the negativity and cruelty in the world. I found the good eventually. Not only did I find the good in the world that was given to me, but I found the good that was in the person I was. I didn’t have to start over, I didn’t have to remake myself or begin again, I just had to realize that I was so much more than I thought I was.
I am not depressed. I have depression. I am a living, breathing person who struggles sometimes. I am a friend, a daughter, a writer, a photographer, a painter, a (bad) dancer, a student, a co-worker, a comedian, a dog enthusiast, and I am all of these things because these are the things I love. These are the things that I have become over so many years, and what is most important is that I have become a real person, and I can recognize that I do love myself because I chose to become these things. We are not what we cannot control, we are what we love and what we do, teach, learn, grow into and what we are on this earth to become.
I feel the things that are good in this scary world that was given to me, and I am not depressed. I am a real person and I am here.